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KNIGHT AND DAY (2010) (**1/2)

This action comedy attempts to recreate the globetrotting thrillers like CHARADE and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Innocent people are wrapped up in international espionage. The plot tries to keep us guessing. Romance grows as the leads run from a host of nefarious characters. Casting was a big part of those previous film's successes and this film gets that element right, but the others less so.

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This action comedy attempts to recreate the globetrotting thrillers like CHARADE and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Innocent people are wrapped up in international espionage. The plot tries to keep us guessing. Romance grows as the leads run from a host of nefarious characters. Casting was a big part of those previous film's successes and this film gets that element right, but the others less so.

The film begins with Roy Miller (Tom Cruise, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE) watching June Havens (Cameron Diaz, MY SISTER'S KEEPER) at the airport. They have a funny way of bumping into each other. But something seems odd when they end up on the same flight and June gets bumped, than given a seat anyway on a nearly empty plane. During the flight, she flirts with Roy and they seem to have a connection going. But when she goes to the bathroom, all hell breaks loose. Roy is attacked by everyone on the plane, which ends up in a nosedive. Roy informs June that people will come for her and say that he is crazy, but that she should not believe them. The evidence up to this point doesn't support his case.

As Roy said, government agents do come to visit June. When you seemingly walk away from a plane crash that was filled with dead agents, you become someone of interest. Director George (Viola Davis, DOUBT) and Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard, AN EDUCATION) present an alternative explanation of events. Roy has gone rogue and has killed agents and stolen a powerful new technology from the prodigy investor Simon Feck (Paul Dano, THERE WILL BE BLOOD).

Roy and June reunite when he steals her away from government custody. Of course he does so in the most dramatic and unlikely fashion, leaping onto moving cars from out of nowhere and fighting off dozens of trained FBI agents in the process.. At this point June doesn't know whom to trust as Roy drags her all over the planet running from agents, assassins and Antonio (Jordi Molla, CHE), a nasty arms dealer. From time to time he has to drug her for her safety. And while drugged, undressing her and putting her into a bikini is definitely part of keeping her safe.

Cruise and Diaz show why they are international movie stars. Their charisma is engaging and they make the most preposterous sequences fun. James Mangold's film even gives them personalities. Cruise plays Roy with a slightly off, but always pleasant, intensity. It's like he's having fun with his own public persona. Diaz makes June a tomboy, who can handle her own, but she's not an instant super spy… well there's that one part, but you know that comes at the end after she's learned from Roy, right?

As much fun as the film has with the plausible romance and implausible action, the film lacks any jeopardy. Roy is a superhero and never once do we ever think that June is in any danger, or that Roy's adversaries have what it a takes to beat him. This saps all the tension out of the string of action sequences. If you're going to have your hero engage in stunts that would make Superman break a sweat than you need to give him an enemy that's a few steps ahead. Roy makes agents and villains alike look like Wile E.Coyote. Beep beep.

Throughout, my mind kept coming back to CHARADE. June's awe of Roy reminded me of the awe Audrey Hepburn's character had for Cary Grant's character. But what that classic had that this film lacks is real doubt. The new film has some twists like the 1963 film, but not as many and not nearly as convincing. The Hepburn film had her innocent solidly at the center with an invested interest in the mystery. Diaz's June is just along for the ride.

So in the end I was really torn with this one. It was a fun diversion, but the over-the-top action pulled me out of the story every time. If it weren't for Cruise and Diaz, the whole thing would have come apart at the seems. Fans of the actors will enjoy their quirky characters and their relationship. Those that loathe modern action will find this film a bit tedious. Those people should just go watch CHARADE.

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Rick DeMott
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